Depression is becoming more common recently. Regardless of the pandemic many of us see intense stress regularly. As one could guess, stress can lead to depression. As I noted in my first article here, there are plenty of ways to prevent depression and by extension, stress. One way to reduce stress is through pets, in most cases this means dogs. While not everyone is a dog person, it’s not easy to find someone who isn’t. This is for good reason, dogs give us companionship with few strings attached. You scratch their back, they’ll scratch yours ten times over.
While not everyone has a dog, many universities and workplaces offer dog therapy sessions for people with high stress. While the pandemic makes this difficult, there are a lot of avenues to finding dogs. If anything, reach out to a friend with a dog and maybe offer to help take care of them. Or if you’re confident in your ability to take care of a dog, you could consider adopting one.
In any case, here are 2 ways dogs can relieve stress and help prevent depression as well as a further explanation.
1. Walking Your Dog
While I already noted the benefits of walking in my first (article), dogs make this different. For one having a dog gives you an excuse to go outside for a walk. While being morally obligated to walk around everyday might seem exhausting some days, it will likely relax you most days.
While I can’t speak for others, walking with a dog gives me a much different experience then walking alone. Personally, it helps me slip away and forget about the things bothering me. I find that walking with a dog reduces my stress. I wouldn’t be surprised if others felt the same.
2. Playing/Cuddling With Your Dog
Playing with dogs can bring us comfort when no one else will. For one, playing with your dog can wear them out, which saves you time later on. It may also make you feel happy, considering that you are making your dog happy.
Cuddling with your dog can also make you feel better. Cuddling with your friend can make you feel relaxed, and reduce overall stress. Moreover, if you are visibly in a bad mood, dogs can often pick up on this. The American Kennel Club reports that dogs can often understand our emotions via the tone of our voice. If you’re voice is full of enthusiasm, they will likely become excited as well. If you have a depressive tone, they will likely come to your level. Regardless, you can find comfort knowing that your dog can understand your current emotional state.
Why dogs actually reduce stress
So, why do dogs give us comfort in this way? Well for one cuddling with dogs can release a chemical in our brain known as oxytocin. This chemical helps us relax and relieves stress. It’s also found that dogs also get this chemical release when we engage with them. This mutual sharing of feelings is something very powerful, and is almost entirely unique to dogs.
Further proof of this idea of stress relief can be seen from other studies featured in this article from The Washington Post. There are a few studies old and new like one from the Journal of Vascular and Interventional Neurology. They note that people who own dogs are statistically less likely to suffer from heart attacks. If that isn’t a good reason to adopt a dog, I don’t know what is.
For those reading, I hope you have a great holiday. If you think this holiday might not be the best, you definitely aren’t alone. This one will be rough, but keep your chin up. I might also recommend my last article on holiday depression, I really think it could help.
If anyone reading has a question they might want to ask me regarding how I’ve improved my mental wellness or anything else, feel free to email me.